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Skin Resurfacing

 What is skin resurfacing?
 When is it used?
 How do I prepare for this procedure?
 What happens during the procedure?
 What happens after the procedure?
 What are the risks of this procedure?

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What is skin resurfacing?

Skin resurfacing is a procedure that removes the top layer of your skin and allows new, healthier, and smoother looking skin to become the new surface. It may be done in various ways.

When is it used?

Skin resurfacing procedures are done to improve the health and appearance of scarred skin or skin damaged by acne, the sun, or chemicals. Even if your skin does not have a lot of damage, skin resurfacing may be done to keep the skin looking youthful, smooth, and healthy.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Tell your provider if you have any food or medicine allergies.
  • Plan for your care and a ride home after the procedure.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Some products may increase your risk of side effects. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Follow any instructions your healthcare provider may give you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

Most resurfacing procedures are done in your healthcare provider's office.

You may be given a local or regional anesthetic before the procedure to keep you from feeling pain. Local and regional anesthesia numb part of your body while you stay awake. You may be given medicine with the local or regional anesthetic to help you relax.

There are several ways to remove a layer of skin:

  • Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure that uses a rotating brush to take off the top layers of the skin. Dermabrasion may be used to remove scars, sun spots or other dark areas of skin, wrinkles, or tattoos. You may need more than 1 treatment. You may have dermabrasion along with another technique, such as a chemical peel, several weeks later.
  • Laser resurfacing uses a beam of laser light to remove layers of the skin. It can be used with other procedures. It is used to treat sun-related skin changes, scars on the face, and blemishes.
  • Microdermabrasion uses tiny crystals to polish the skin. A kind of vacuum is used to remove the crystals. Microdermabrasion is used to treat light scarring, sun damage, darkened skin areas, and stretch marks. You may need 5 or 6 treatments for best results.
  • Chemical peels use a chemical to treat fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth. This procedure can reduce or get rid of some of the wrinkles caused by aging, skin problems, and sun damage. Severe wrinkles, sags, and bulges do not respond well to chemical peeling

Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons can do any of these procedures. Which procedures are best for you depends on several things. Your provider can discuss this with you.

What happens after the procedure?

After skin resurfacing, your skin will be tender and swollen for several days. Your skin may look like it has a bad sunburn. Your skin may blister, peel, or have crusts for several days.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • You may have problems with anesthesia.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • You may have scarring or skin color changes such as a permanent darkening or lightening of your natural skin color.
  • You may have an allergic reaction to chemicals used on your skin.
  • Your eyes or tooth enamel may be injured if your eyes and teeth are not well covered and protected during a laser procedure.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

healthinformatics info


Alkhawan, L, Alam, M. Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion. Facial Plast Surg. 2009 Dec; 25(5): 301-310.

Bhalla, M., & Thami, G.P. (2006). Microdermabrasion: Reappraisal and brief review of literature. Dermatologic surgery, 32(6), pp. 809-814.

Kingley, M, Dover, J. What’s new in cosmetic procedures. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2010 Oct; 145(5): 1420-1426.

Zakopoulou, N., & Kontochristopoulos, G. (2006). Superficial chemical peels. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 5(3), pp. 246-253.

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Last Modified: 2015-03-24

Last Reviewed: 2015-03-24

Website Updated: August 2015

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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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